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Time to ask the hard beer questions?

As part of the run up to the Great American Beer Festival Denver’s Westword features the relatively new Cheeky Monk Belgian Beer Cafe. Co-owner James Pachorek comes across a little, well, cheeky.

One particular paragraph got me thinking.

In fact, Pachorek was amazed at how quickly craft brewers had been able to make beers that were as good as or better than what the Belgians have been doing for generations.

Given that each year at GABF I end up with less time for blogging than I expect a “question of the day” might be a bit much, but I’ll aim for that . . . and maybe settle for a “question of the festival.”

Wish me luck, since question No. 1 for brewers will be: Do you brew beers that are as good at or better than what the Belgians have been doing for generations? Make that: Do you brew beers that are as good at or better than the Europeans have for generations?

48 Responses to Time to ask the hard beer questions?

  1. Pivní Filosof September 1, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    It would also be interesting to know what they mean by “better”…

  2. The Beer Nut September 1, 2010 at 2:39 pm #

    Daft question. “Is your beer better than the handful of European beers you’ve tasted, hardly any of which were made to recipes older than 50 years?”

    If we’ve learned one thing from the BJCP it’s that there’s an awful lot of crap spoken about what Europeans brewed generations ago.

  3. Stan Hieronymus September 1, 2010 at 3:12 pm #

    I think both of these can be incorporated into the “main” question.

  4. Kristen England September 1, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    By generations, you mean 2 right? As in making broad sweeping falsities about brewing over the last 40 years? 🙂

  5. brewer a September 1, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    Try our Schwarz and Helles on the floor and you tell me.

  6. Stan Hieronymus September 1, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

    Andrew – I will, and I will.

  7. Allen September 1, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

    @Beernut, why would you assume that they’ve only tasted a handful of beers from Europe?

  8. The Beer Nut September 2, 2010 at 1:03 am #

    Because of the very large number of beers that are made in Europe. I’ve barely scratched the surface and I live here.

    Add in beer from generations ago and you have an impractically large comparison set.

  9. Mike September 2, 2010 at 2:28 am #

    Do you mean like the American brewers who make a Gose without actually having tasted one? Or the thousands who make a Kölsch without ever having been in Cologne? Or the ever-popular Oktoberfest beer that is unlike any beer served at Oktoberfest (the one in Germany)?

    The American beer scene (both industrial and microbreweries) is dominated by hype and marketing nonsense. This topic is just another example of that.

  10. Stan Hieronymus September 2, 2010 at 7:13 am #

    This conversation has taken a turn I didn’t expect – that’s what makes this fun. I anticipated people might suggest other questions for other days . . .

    But I think it’s a fair extension of the first question to ask brewers who say they are taking inspiration from foreign shores who many of those beers they’ve had in situ.

  11. Stephen Beaumont September 2, 2010 at 7:42 am #

    Mike makes a good point, one I frequently rant about. So much of certain beer experiences have to do with being in situ, to the point that talking about, say, kölsch without having been to Cologne or altbier without having been to Düsseldorf becomes an existential exercise.

    What Pachorek should have been talking about is not better or worse, but innovation, along the lines of Avery’s Dépuceleuse, which I recently tasted and reviewed. Belgian brewers might think of combining strong ale with cherries and Brett, but would they put it into zinfandel barrels? (Then again, perhaps that question should not be “would” but “could”…)

  12. Kristen England September 2, 2010 at 8:26 am #

    The thing that gets me about ‘innovation’ is in most cases, it does one very well to know some basics first. As Mike says, most Americans haven’t been anywhere and had a beer or learned about the beer in country of origin. How is one supposed to innovate without that experience. I guess its done a lot. 1) Take a mediocre IPA. 2) Take a bland insipid Schwartzbier 3) Add them together. 4) We got a new style baby!!! That was easy!

  13. Mike September 2, 2010 at 8:30 am #

    OK, Stan, here are a couple of questions you might ask:

    1. Why, when the most popular (ie, best-selling) microbrewed beer in the US is fairly conventional (http://www.thebeerfathers.com/top-us-beer-brand-stats-2009-update/), are breweries making extreme beers and hop monsters, neither of which shows commercial promise?
    2. Why don’t they stop throwing around terms like “innovative” and “craft brewery” and start concentrating on making good quality beer that people would actually like to drink (see question #1)?
    3. How many of them come from a background in home-brewing and how many have completed professional training at an accredited educational institute?
    4. Who do they want their customers to be and who are their customers now?
    5. Can they describe what “Belgian-style” means as a brewer?

    Optional question #6: Do they think they are brewers or rock stars? Is there a difference?

  14. Kristen England September 2, 2010 at 9:35 am #

    Mike,

    I think #3 is misleading. If someone goes to UC Davis and takes a class they have taken higher education. They’ll usually go on to apprentice at a small place and then maybe move to a brewery in a year or two. So that’s what, a year of experience? If someone home brews for 10 years and learns everything on their own, has proven themselves time and time again with proven recipes, are they less qualified? What if they are a professional in a different scientific discipline? Don’t get me wrong, 80% of the time, this never happens. Its the ones who have made a single beer that pipe up the most. However to draw a blanket statement that just b/c someone home brewed in the past they don’t know anything is too harsh.

    Maybe changing #3 to read, how much practical experience do you have? And then add on a part ‘A’ to question 5. ‘Have you ever been to Belgium? what does ‘Belgian-style’ mean to you?’

    For all of us that have been to Belgium know specifically that the Belgians have massively different answers from brewery to brewery. I, personally, would argue that its only the yeast that can make something Belgian (or be brewed in Belgium). You take the exact same Belgian ingredients and ferment it as a lager or open like a UK ale, it would be very very difficult for most people to say its ‘Belgian’. however, if you chuck in Chimay yeast, as most people seem to do, its instantly recognizable as ‘Belgian’.

    Thoughts? Stanley?

  15. Mike September 2, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    Kristen, I specified “completed” and meant a full curriculum, not just a course. I used this because it is an independent measurement of training. Being a homebrewer with some professional experience is hard to measure and really doesn’t say much about a person’s abilities, IMO.

    Belgian-style is a marketing term used by the marketing-crazed beer industry. It’s probably like using Parisian-style in the fashion industry or Viennese-style in the pastry industry. Belgian beers are seen as being among the best and saying your beer is “Belgian-style” simply implies that it is also of high quality. In fact, most real Belgian beers are not “Belgian style”.

  16. Kristen England September 2, 2010 at 9:58 am #

    Mike,

    Very good points. I would also argue that a degree in brewing (or really anything else for that matter) only shows a basic ability to do something whether its bake a cake or make a beer. It says nothing about their ability to create a recipe.

    Per your comment about Belgium and quality, do you think the term Trappist gets confused with the blanket ‘Belgian’? Here in the Twin Cities that is definitely the fact. B/c a beer made in Belgium is one of the best in the world automatically makes anything related to Belgium also great as long as your muse was a similar beer. As for marketing, anything in fancy bottles, a limited number of beers, AND Belgian tag, you have a winning recipe for selling beer. Quality be damned!

  17. Mike September 2, 2010 at 10:23 am #

    Kristen, yes, I agree that knowing how to brew is not the same as knowing how to create good recipes. But, I think that comes with experience – a lot of experience, not a year or two.

    I don’t think many people really understand what Trappist means or the history of the Trappists in Belgium. For example, in Germany, there are quite a few more monasteries that brew beer and have done for far longer than the Trappists in Belgium. Ettaler, for example, has been brewing since 1609, but they are Benedictine, not Trappist.

    Most of what I know about the US beer scene is what I can read on the Internet. So, I don’t think I can really comment on the Trappist=Belgian question. Sorry.

  18. Stan Hieronymus September 2, 2010 at 10:24 am #

    Geez, Kristin asks a question and I can’t get an answer in . . .

    kristin – Agreed on the Belgian yeast. Put another way, the beer isn’t Belgian (it’s American) but the yeast still is. And yeast of Chimay heritage (how many versions are there?) has been asked to perform some terrible acts.

    Ultimately we judge a brewer’s abilities on what is in the glass or bottle, right now, in front of us. It’s got a better chance to be acceptable fresh at the brewery (or homebrewery) than after if has been asked to travel. Accomplished brewers are both well educated/trained and experienced. Which why apprenticeship has so long played an important part in brewing.

  19. Kristen England September 2, 2010 at 10:25 am #

    Type faster Gramps. You either need more coffee or I need less of it…

  20. Jeff Alworth September 3, 2010 at 12:07 am #

    Reading through the initial post and subsequent 19 responses, I have a slightly different take than where my mind started. If the question is: can Americans make credibly superior clones of European style beers, that’s one thing. If it’s: has American brewing now exceeded the level of European brewing, that’s a slightly different thing. In the first case, we have La Folie matched against Rodenbach (and so on). In the second case, we have Russian River Pliny the Elder matched up against Rodenbach.

    I’m uninterested in the first case. The second one, where emergent American modes of brewing have produced actual, original beer styles that are as good as the best examples from Europe–that is interesting. Most interesting.

  21. Stan Hieronymus September 3, 2010 at 6:30 am #

    Jeff – A good point, but there is another aspect of what has become a larger discussion I think Mike hits on: What is the overall and underlying quality?

    When a drinker in Bavaria orders a beer he or she knows there’s a certain standard it will meet. Is the same true in Oregon?

    Curiously, when I first read Pachorek’s statement I was just going to quote him and post an entry with the headline, “Let’s not get carried away.” Admittedly because it seems I am constantly reacting to lists of best beers of the world that are dominated by Americans.

  22. Mike September 3, 2010 at 7:33 am #

    Jeff, I must say that to believe that “emergent American modes of brewing produced actual, original beer styles that are as good as the best examples from Europe” in the last 15-20 years when beer has been brewed in Europe and the Middle East for 5-10,000 years is quite a statement. Perhaps overstatement would be a more accurate term.

    That there is a lot of experimentation in the US is quite evident. But, experimentation is a first (or early) step, and not, I hope, the destination.

  23. Alan September 3, 2010 at 8:38 am #

    Isn’t it equally valid to point out that certain US craft brewers have been and are making beer as far worse than what certain Belgians have been doing for generations?

    Experimental US craft flops and successes are apples and oranges when compared to Belgian beer traditions.

    And what is this thing about US brewing being new? It’s been going on since the 1600s. Just because it sucked in the mid-1900s when Europe may have sucked to a lesser degree doesn’t make for a new beginning.

  24. Jeff Alworth September 3, 2010 at 10:14 am #

    Stan, I think you hint at what must clearly be admitted: the American beer market is still very young, and product variation is far greater than anywhere in Europe. It takes decades, if not generations, for a population to become educated enough to know the difference between a well-made beer and one riddled with errors of craft and sanitation. Because the US’s population isn’t educated, poor breweries can survive and do. I think you can see different strata across the country. In Oregon, bad breweries don’t attract much business–we recently had one called Migration that put out some bad beer and found themselves in deep trouble. They retooled and are trying to lure back customers. I’ve been to parts of the country with one or two craft breweries, though, and there the people haven’t had the experience of enough good beer to recognize the bad.

    So, if you were to look at a graph of the range of beer, you’d see a lot of valleys and peaks–beers that score 90 on a 100-point scale, but lots at 50 as well. In Europe, the market’s too mature to endure a whole lot of 50-point breweries. Point taken.

    On the other hand, lots of beer in Europe is pure industrial crap. Most Belgians don’t drink Cantillon any more than Americans drink La Folie. So when you compare products, I think you have to compare the best to the best–peak to peak. Here I think the discussion is more interesting.

    I’m not actually making any argument. If I were sent to a desert island with a lifetime’s supply of 20 beers, probably only 5 (max) would be American. But five WOULD be American. I do find that interesting.

  25. Jeff Alworth September 3, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    Mike, I’m not so much talking about the experiments–though they’re most promising. If I were to make an argument about what America uniquely contributes to the world of beer, it would be based mainly on indigenous hops. Our zingy, citrusy, funky hops are unique in the world, and our way of brewing–which is designed to accentuate them–is something new under the sun. Eliminate the emergence of American craft brewing, and you take that dimension away from world beer. Given how much our hops have now influenced European breweries, I think it’s hard not to tip your hat to the phenomenon. That’s why I used Pliny as the example, not La Folie (which is a careful and wonderful reconstruction of a beer that already exists). No America, nothing like Pliny.

  26. Jeff Alworth September 3, 2010 at 10:20 am #

    Oh, and I should say that Michael Jackson used to make this same point. I heard him describe missing American hoppy ales when he’d been gone for too long and not being able to find anything to satisfy his hankering. (This was 15 years ago or so, back when American beers weren’t available in Europe.)

  27. Mike September 3, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    Jeff, my understanding is that the hops currently in vogue in the US were developed for industrial brewers – that is, so strongly bitter that a small amount could be used in place of lots of less bitter hops. That small breweries have latched onto this hop and drown their beer in it I do not see as a good thing. I find these hops very distasteful and, while you may see this as a contribution by the US, I see it as a crime.

    Secondly, of the few European breweries who use American hops, most export those beers to … the US.

    And lastly, I think this misuse of industrial hops is a fad. In the link I posted to a list of the top 10 selling microbreweries, not a single one (AFAIK) is overhopped. Have you ever heard of the Session Beer project? Why do you think that was started?

  28. Jeff Alworth September 3, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

    Mike, the list is a support to my argument. Of the seven beers on the list (three are unnamed seasonals), three are European-inspired lagers, and three are Cascade-hopped ales (Fat Tire is the last). The number one selling craft beer is actually a quintessential American beer–the kind that wouldn’t exist if America hadn’t started microbrewing in the 70s. I’m not trying to make a grand point here, but I think some critics mistake the authentic contribution of American brewing.

    Your history of hop use is also off, but that’s another matter and I’m on my iPhone.

  29. Mike September 3, 2010 at 2:04 pm #

    I don’t know American beers very well, but I can’t find any of the 10 on Ratebeer that could be described as “overhopped” – which is the description I used.

    That American beers are on the list is hardly a surprise since it’s a list of American beers.

    If American microbreweries are making such good beer, why can’t the industry (including Samuel Adams) reach even five percent of the market in the US?

  30. Ilya Feynberg September 3, 2010 at 11:36 pm #

    Wow….

    This is a great a question to ask and now that I think about it, I start to wonder why it is that more and more bloggers and people haven’t been asking this question. At least I haven’t really seen it brought up as of late.

    Anyway…

    I think that there is a perfectly good explanation to the astonishing growth and ability we’ve been seeing here in the states.

    We all know that the Belgians produce some seriously good beers, and really A LOT of Europe does. The Beer Nut is right, that there are so many that it’s hard to scratch the surface even after a few purely beer geared trips there.

    In my opinion if I may add my two cents in:

    1. The Belgians while producing incredible beer just don’t seem to be as experimentative and creative with styles and brewing techniques like we are here in the states. Granted it always doesn’t work in our favor, but it teaches us something each time, and pushes the envelope. The Belgians seem to stick more to tradition and history than we do here in the states. which is not a bad thing at all though.

    2. We’re great learners. Many great brew masters here in the states have spent plenty of time around the world in search of great ingredients, brewing techniques, great people, histories and traditions etc.

    3. Our country is full or those from all over the world that wish to share their knowledge and ability. Just like any other industry here in the states a lot of those aboard seem to want to contribute here.

    Ilya

  31. Mike September 4, 2010 at 1:13 am #

    Jeff, for you: http://bit.ly/dzjvoi

  32. Jeff Alworth September 4, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    Mike, we seem to be talking past each other somehow. A few random thoughts:

    1. The best-selling beers in every country are mainstream. The best-selling beers in every category are the most mainstream. Belgians drink Stella, not Cantillon. Americans drink Bud, not Dark Lord. And if they’re drinking stout, they drink Guinness, not Dark Lord.

    2. There are American craft beers that are distinctive from the beers of any other countries. The best of these match up well with the best of the world’s great beers.

    3. Americans also make and drink a lot of bad beer.

  33. Mike September 6, 2010 at 1:57 am #

    Unfortunately, my English is not what it used to be. If “talking past each other” means that I have proven you wrong, you are right.

    On your thoughts: 1. I agree, but what I would find more interesting is how much good beer is consumed by the various countries.

    3. As I have already said, I don’t know American beers very well. Of the few that have been imported here, I’ve had several famous American beers that I had to pour down the drain, while I’ve had a few others that I quite liked, but were hardly “distinctive from the beers of any other countries”. In fact, they were very good copies of European beers.

    2. Wow! Tell me, which American beer is as good as Westvleteren 12? And which is as good as Rochefort 10? Or Girardin Gueuze 1882 black label? Or Hartwich Zoigl? Or Malzmühle Kölsch?

    I wonder how many of “the best of the world’s great beers” you’ve actually tasted? And, I suspect for most of them, you need to taste them in situ. Afterall, bottled Kölsch (or Alt) as you get in the US doesn’t taste very much like the versions served from the barrel in Cologne and Düsseldorf. The same would be true of the Real Ale served from the cask in the UK.

    Here are a few random thoughts of my own: What has the US contributed to beer? There’s the maniacal obsession with beer styles that more rational Americans have named “style nazi.” There are the extreme beers and the hop monsters, neither of which has had much effect, if any, in Europe. On the more positive side, imports to the US probably mean quite a bit to some good, but economically struggling European breweries. And there are some good beers produced in the US that are better than some of the beer produced by lazy European brewers.

    Most beer drinkers (though clearly not the Rate/Advocate crowd) look for drinkability and balance in their beer. Eventually, I hope, the small, but loud minority in the US will shut up and American brewers can get on with producing excellent beers. As I’ve said, there are some very good beers from the US, but far fewer than should be possible in a country the size of the US.

  34. Jeff Alworth September 6, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    Mike, how can you be so certain of your opinions of American beer when, as you say, you “don’t know American beers very well.” It tends to undermine your argument–which, incidentally, doesn’t seem to be with me so much as a meta argument I’m not making.

    I will go ahead and dispute this claim, though: There are the extreme beers and the hop monsters, neither of which has had much effect, if any, in Europe.

    We can dispute what “much” means, but if you argue these beers have had no effect at all, you are flatly wrong. BrewDog, Mikkeller, Nogne-O, to take just a few examples, have been heavily influenced by American brewing. If you read the description of Urthel’s Hop-It, you see the brewery specifically cites the US. That’s four breweries from four European countries just off the top of my head. Growers now produce Cascade hops for the local British market. Cross-Atlantic pollination IS happening in pretty observable ways.

  35. Ilya Feynberg September 6, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    @Jeff

    Took the words right out of my mouth man!

    Ilya

  36. Mike September 6, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

    Ah, another non-reply! Jeff, you have done a very poor job here. I have pointed out your errors and you have ignored them. All this does is prove that you have no argument – just an opinion based on uncritical belief.

    If you expect to make a point and have it taken seriously, you need to supply evidence. I could just say that I am the emperor of Greece and, without any evidence, that would be meaningless.

    You said “The best of these (American beers) match up well with the best of the world’s great beers.” Well, where’s the evidence?

    I don’t need to be knowledgeable about American beers because I would expect you to provide independent evidence (up till now all I have is your opinion) that these beers are as good as you think.

    As for the European breweries that use American hops, well, that’s three (or four). Yes, I know them and I know what they do. And if three American breweries used Czech hops would you say that US brewers are influenced by the Czechs?

    Interestingly, can you guess where those few European breweries that brew American-styled beers sell most of their beers? Is this a new concept for you – foreign company produces a product specifically for the American market?

  37. Jeff Alworth September 6, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    Mike, are you as mad as a hatter or do you actually believe that quality is objective? I’ve already responded to all your points to the extent they can be responded to. The substance of your argument is that American beers (which you admit to not having tried) aren’t as good as European beers. There can be no evidence one way or another as to whether Sierra Nevada Pale is as good as Rochefort 10. Apparently you believe such evidence could be supplied. These are the shoals on which our boat runs aground.

    Up until we got into a confused death battle (I STILL have no idea what your point is), this was an informative thread. But I think this is where I get off. Cheers to you; may your next beer be tasty, wherever it may have been brewed.

  38. Jim Janke September 6, 2010 at 6:46 pm #

    Mike- Are you a brewer? What is your background? Provide us some evidence why I should give a squirt of Belgian beer down the urinal about your opinion? Actually don’t waste your time as I am going to the fridge now for a Pacific NW “Hop Bomb” to enjoy why I watch some real football! Cheers!

  39. Mike September 7, 2010 at 12:22 am #

    I think this is a rather good example of why so many American sources for beer information (Rate/Advocate, blogs, BJCP, etc.) are untrustworthy.

    People (like Jeff) post opinion and wrap it in fact.

  40. Stan Hieronymus September 7, 2010 at 7:21 am #

    Whew! I guess I apologize for being away on the weekend and not around to provide some mediation.

    I need to go clear back to Ilya’s comment and add some thoughts . . . after I do a bit of other work.

    However, I want to address the comment immediately above. Mike, if you go read Jeff’s blog you will see this is just a wrong-headed statement.

  41. Mike September 7, 2010 at 9:12 am #

    Hi Stan. It’s been so quiet around here, I didn’t even know you were away!

    I took a look at Jeff’s blog from your link and, while I don’t agree with it all, had he written more like that here, it’s likely my comment above would not have been necessary.

    As you (Stan) know, I am a former journalist and words and their use mean a lot to me. What Jeff wrote here (which has no relation to his blog post) is this: “There are American craft beers that are distinctive from the beers of any other countries. The best of these match up well with the best of the world’s great beers.” [I mostly agree with the first sentence, but I included it here because the second sentence wouldn’t make much sense without it.]

    This may have been written as an expression of opinion, but it comes across as a statement of fact. Had there been an “I think” or “in my experience” or some other mitigating factor, the arrogance would have been weakened.

    So, no, my comment is not wrong-headed, it is correct.

    Some people choose their words carefully, many don’t. Some people put their opinion forward as an opinion, others don’t.

    And finally: personal attacks strike me as the weapon of choice of the powerless.

  42. timgray September 7, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    I too, have no idea what Mike’s point is. He seems to be attacking Jeff for not “providing proof” that there are American beers and beer styles that are as good as some European ones, without “providing proof” that there aren’t any. He also accuses Jeff of skirting the issues he brings up, but his only issue seems to be that since Europeans have been brewing for thousands of years, the issue is moot, and is offended that Jeff won’t succumb to his “facts”. Mike also did not answer Jeff’s specific question of whether he believes that quality is objective. Seems like a pretentious attitude to me, especially for someone who admits to not knowing a lot about American beer. Salud!

  43. Swordboarder September 7, 2010 at 11:41 am #

    Going back to the original question, I think my best response is this:

    Not yet. But we’re learning fast.

    The European beers can be reproduced. They have upgraded their brewing systems from time to time. Their malt and hops can be purchased. Their water, recipes and techniques can be reproduced. Their knowledge isn’t kept under lock and key, it’s being shared in books and in Europeans moving to the US.

    We appreciate the European tradition, but are also interested in blazing our own trail. Maltsters and hop growers have taken notice, and are experimenting with new products for us themselves.

    Do I think we’ll get there? Undoubtedly, though I do apologize for the mistakes we make along the way (especially to Alan).

  44. Kristen England September 7, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    Re Swordboarder’s point about mistakes, I think a vast majority of these mistakes most brewers would look at and say, ‘Oh course that beer is going to suck! Why would you put Garam Masala in a beer?’ Most could easily be avoided but I think most brewers have a quite a large chip on their shoulder. Don’t tell me what to do with my beer, etc etc

    I think the big difference in the mindset between US/Canuck and Europe is that US does a lot of the ‘could’ thinking vs a lot of the European ‘should’. Meaning, yes, you COULD put that in but SHOULD you? Mike has a fair point. I think that Americans are also given way to much credit for ‘experimentation’. These cases get all the lime light and the truly great beers get overshadowed. That being said, Mikey, Europe has Brewdog who made the worlds strongest beer and serve it out of a dead squirrel. 🙂

  45. Stan Hieronymus September 7, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

    I think there is plenty out there to support this statement: “There are American craft beers that are distinctive from the beers of any other countries. The best of these match up well with the best of the world’s great beers.”

    Start with the writing of Michael Jackson. Or two more recent books from UK writers – “World’s Best Beers” by Ben McFarland and “500 Beers” by Zak Avery. These books are based on considerable “field work.”

    Additionally, the results of competitions like the World Beer Cup (where more than half the judges are from outside the United States) and European Beer Star Awards (conducted in Germany, with almost no U.S. judges) speak to the quality of American beers.

    Above you ask what American beers are as good as Hartwich Zoigl? An interesting addition to a “best” list (one that ties in nicely to “best” post). I would pick Double Mountain IPA. Both are beers that reflect the regions where they are brewed – and retain character more commercial beers may have lost. The Double Mountain would be a shocker to many Bavarians, but the Zoigl would be just as “strange” to many Oregonians.

  46. Stan Hieronymus September 7, 2010 at 8:17 pm #

    Not to pick on you, Ilya, but the rah-rah nature of your comment can wear on Europeans. I’m not saying you mean to imply it, but it reads like “you guys have taken beer as far as you can and now us fast-learning Americans are taking over.”

    I’d say it’s fair to ask how many European (I’m lumping the UK in here) beers you’ve had at their technical best. I use the word “technical” thinking in terms of a blind tasting, so in situ isn’t so much a factor but the actual fresh condition of the beer is. It’s a mistake to think that a beer – no matter how strong and highly hopped it might be – is going to travel perfectly. That includes both American beers headed east and European beers headed west.

  47. Ilya Feynberg September 8, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    @Stan

    Is that taking into consideration BOTH sides…or just the one? Meaning…are we taking into consideration the a very often (and it already has been portrayed in this thread) the idea that we only produce crap here? The lack of sophistication? Etc?

    I don’t mean to get any Europeans up in arms, but it does go both ways. I don’t really mind saying that…

    That being said though, I did not mean to say that Europeans have taken beer as far as they can go and that’s that. Not at all…FAR from it. Too many good breweries, ingredients and people over there. But they do seem to be moving in a different direction and seem to be more inclined to follow long held traditions, tastes, perceptions etc. More so than we do here that is.

    And to answer your question as to how much I’ve tried…not nearly enough to say that I’m very experienced. I fully admit this and would love nothing more than to spend an entire year tasting all the beers just from the whole of the European continent. So don’t get me wrong there.

    What I said wasn’t meant to inflame any tensions, nor act all “rah rah”…but if it came off that way…I have a very hard time apologizing for that. I don’t really see positive behavior from the other side of the pond.

    Ilya

  48. Stan Hieronymus September 8, 2010 at 4:28 pm #

    Ilya, as I said I didn’t want to pick on you, so thanks for taking it well. Way back at the top you’ll see this was not intended to be a discussion of what Europeans think of American beer. The average drinker there doesn’t care nor has he or she had a chance to taste the range of what is available – let alone in good shape.

    As I wrote at the outset I think James Pachorek’s comment was cheeky. It also reminded me of the unfortunate attitude I’ve ranted about in the past. Such as lists that include 17 American beers among the top 25 in the world. American brewers make outstanding beer, and it’s fine for American drinkers to be proud of that, but an American beer can be good/outstanding/great without knocking out some European beer in the eighth round.

    Looking back across the thread I probably shouldn’t have singled you out.

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